Amendment 85A

Part of Trade Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 3:45 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, it makes sense to take Amendments 85A and 89A together and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. It is generally believed in legal circles that Clause 7(1) and the whole of Clause 8 as currently drafted are extremely wide and give great discretion to HMRC to require information. A similar amendment was moved in the other place that these provisions should be much more clearly defined to give greater certainty about the extent of the information and the anticipated frequency of this method of data collection. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe described so clearly, while in normal circumstances it could be quite amusing, a breach of confidentiality or legal privilege is no laughing matter—and accidents and mistakes do happen. It is for that reason that Amendment 85A seeks to add at the end:

“Nothing in regulations made under subsection (3) may require the disclosure of information or the production of documents which are subject to legal professional privilege.”

Similar wording would be added to the relevant provisions of Clause 8.

I know that my noble friend Lord Younger went to some pains in summing up the previous debate to make it clear that the information would be provided on a voluntary basis—his defence was that there should be no compulsion. That indeed was the summing-up of my right honourable friend the Minister, Greg Hands, in the other place: that legal professional privilege was, in his words,

“a long-standing principle that protects the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and their lay clients and vice versa.—[Official Report, Commons Public Bill Committee, 25/6/20; col. 299.]

He went on to expand on why the principle is so important.

In thanking the Committee for the opportunity to speak to these amendments, I will say that it is felt that there are grounds to have these two amendments written into the Bill. Perhaps the Minister could meet me half way to make sure, by putting these phrases into the Bill, that there is absolutely no scope for anything to be done involuntarily or accidentally. With those few remarks, I beg to move.